Greece ran on 100 percent renewable energy for the first time


Via Flickr

Grace Smith | October 18, 2022

The Greek electrical system ran on 100 percent clean renewable energy for the first time on Oct. 7.  That day, renewable energy sources ran Greece’s electrical system for five hours and reached a new record of 3,106 megawatt hours of electricity. 

The Independent Power Transmission Operator, which owns Greece’s electrical system and connecting power plants, said the success from Oct. 7 will bring about more success and hope for a greener country in the coming years. Greece hopes to use 30 million euros to elevate its electricity grid to double green energy capacity for at least 70 percent of the green energy mix by 2030. 

As of August 2022, natural gas and renewable sources like wind and solar power made up most of its power. In 2019, Greece’s energy consumption was ranked 52nd in the world and used a third of the amount of energy as the U.S. Greece used 108 million BTU and the U.S. used 304.41 million BTU. 

The U.S. is making progress since 2019 in using more renewable energy sources. The California Independent System Operator uses about 80 percent of the state. In addition to California, the U.S. exceeded coal and nuclear energy with wind power in 2022. 

U.S. Senate Passes Groundbreaking Climate Bill


When Are US Senators Next Up for Reelection? | Snopes.com
Via Snopes

Josie Taylor | August 10, 2022

The U.S. Senate, along party lines, passed a sweeping energy, health care, climate and tax package Sunday afternoon, following an overnight marathon of votes that resulted in just a handful of notable changes to the legislation.

The 755-page bill was passed after Vice President Kamala Harris broke a 50-50 tie in the evenly divided Senate. It now heads to the House, where Democratic leaders have announced they will take it up on Friday. Iowa Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst voted against the bill.

The bill includes $369bn for climate action, the largest investment in the issue in US history. Some households could receive up to $7,500 in tax credits to buy an electric car, or $4,000 for a used car. Billions will also be spent in an effort to speed up the production of clean technology such as solar panels and wind turbines.

There will also be $60bn given to communities that have suffered the most from fossil fuel pollution. The authors of the bill say it will cut the country’s carbon emissions by 40% by 2030.

The action on climate comes as the US experiences a wave of extreme weather, including a recent heatwave as well as deadly flooding in Kentucky that left dozens dead.

Hawaii received final coal shipment before shutting down last coal-powered plant


Via Flickr

Grace Smith | August 8, 2022

Hawaii received its final coal shipment on July 27 before shutting down its last coal-powered power plant, pushing the state closer to its goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2045

180 MW West Oahu Plant, the single largest electricity source in Oahu, is set to shut down in September, when its 30-year purchase agreement expires.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige went to Twitter to express his excitement for this step in history. “This is a huge step forward in Hawaiʻi’s transition to clean energy. In its time, coal was an important resource for Hawaii and I’d like to thank the workers who have run our last remaining coal plant.”

Like Hawaii, other states are pushing for net-zero emissions or 100 percent carbon-free electricity by midcentury, including Rhode Island, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Oregon, as of 2021. 

Common renewable energy sources including wind, solar power, and biogas can generate energy that will eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and other types of air pollution. In addition, the economy will develop, including jobs in manufacturing and installation, like in San Diego, California. As a city dedicated to 100 percent renewable energy, it has formed 56,000 jobs in the industry of clean energy.

Biden Opens Oil Reserves to Relieve Gas Prices, Complicating Clean Energy Goals


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | November 24, 2021

President Joe Biden on Tuesday authorized the release of 50 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which is complicating his administration’s goal to transition to cleaner energy sources.

Biden said he coordinated the release from the reserve, a complex of four sites along the Louisiana and Texas Gulf Coasts, with leaders in Japan, South Korea, India and the United Kingdom, which would also release their own reserves.

He clarified that this would not affect gas prices over night. 

The president said the release from the reserve was intended to relieve high prices in the short term, but a strategy to transition to other fuel sources would be more effective in the long term.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm echoed the president to reporters at a press briefing following Biden’s remarks. She said the administration was aiming to provide short-term relief from oil prices that are at a seven-year high.

She said the White House hoped to see domestic oil producers return to their pre-pandemic levels, even as Biden has made climate action a central part of his agenda, which would mean more reliance on clean energy rather than oil. 

The Iowa Environmental Council is Holding a Clean Energy Talk


Via Iowa Environmental Council

Josie Taylor | November 16, 2021

On Thursday, November 18, the Iowa Environmental Council will hold a two-hour Bright Ideas 2021 event to discuss sources of clean energy in Iowa, like solar and wind power. 

The event runs from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Des Moines but has satellite, group-viewing options in Iowa City and Waterloo. Attendees also have the option to watch a livestream that doesn’t allow participation. 

The featured speaker is Destenie Nock, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. She plans to address energy equity. 

The in-person locations include a brunch. The cost to attend ranges from $25 for online viewing to $65 for the Des Moines location. Students and young professionals will get discounts.More information is available here.

President Biden calls for climate action, apologizes for U.S. exit from the Paris Accord


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | November 2, 2021

U.S. President Joe Biden urged countries at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference to invest in a decade of climate action.

He called on countries to transition to clean energy and curb greenhouse gas emissions at the conference in Glasgow, Scotland. He isolated more developed countries to commit to climate goals, including helping developing countries adapt to climate change.

According to Iowa Capital Dispatch, Biden said the U.S. and other mostly developed countries have a larger responsibility to address climate change. The 46th president also committed to trying to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 in the U.S. Biden will announce additional plans to attain those goals, including combating deforestation.

Biden discussed his $1.75 trillion spending plan that hopes to create a strategy to reduce the risk of future natural disasters and shocks. Specifically, the plan promises more than $500 billion to climate initiatives. Congress might consider the plan soon. The “Build Back Better” plan also provides tax credits for clean energy industries in the country, an approach Biden said could create more jobs.

Biden also apologized for former President Donald Trump withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord.

Fusion Energy Steps Closer to Reality


Image by ITER

Maxwell Bernstein | June 12, 2020

On Tuesday, May 26, the largest piece of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor’s (ITER) tokamak was installed on-site in southern France, making fusion energy seem more like a reality according to ITER Newsline

The ITER project is an experimental fusion energy project that hopes to produce 500 MW of fusion power, advancing our goal of creating carbon-free energy that operates under the same principles as stars, according to ITER’s about page

Fusion energy comes from the combination of hydrogen nuclei which fuse at extremely high temperatures to create helium as it’s only byproduct. By 2025, ITER will start its first plasma, making it the world’s largest operational tokamak. 

A tokamak is an experimental donut-shaped container that contains extremely hot plasmas; a state of matter where electrons are disassociated from their nuclei according to Britannica

ITER is a collaboration of 35 countries and has been in the works since 1980. The project has a price point of about $23.7 billion to construct it’s 10 million parts, according to WIRED. This the most ambitious energy project today and is crucial in advancing fusion science according to ITER. 

To combat climate change, an alternate energy source that produces zero cabon emissions is needed, which fusion energy can fulfill.

Coal plants closing at unprecedented rate


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
A coal plant spews pollutants on the Navajo reservation near Page, Arizona. (Photo Kent/flickr)

Jenna Ladd | February 2, 2018

Coal’s role in the U.S. energy picture is rapidly shrinking according to a report from the independent, non-profit Union of Concerned Scientists.

From 2008 to 2016, the portion of the U.S.’s energy derived from coal decreased from 51 percent to 31 percent. Of those coal units that are still up and running, about 25 percent of them plan to retire or switch to another energy source soon. While some coal units are retiring completely, many of them are switching to natural gas. Either way, the report found that the decreased coal production has provided the following environmental health benefits:

  • 80 percent less sulfur dioxide, a source of acid rain
  • 64 percent less nitrogen oxide, a key component in smog
  • 34 percent less carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping gas

Scientists estimate these changes have saved residents about $250 billion in public health costs related to breathing polluted air from 2008 to 2016.

The driving force behind coal’s decline is primarily economic. Natural gas is cheaper than the dirty fuel, and new research found that newly constructed wind and solar plants are more cost effective than new coal plants.

The researchers also looked at the challenges faced by economies in former coal-mining areas to learn more about how residents cope with closing plants. The results were decidedly mixed. For example, after one especially dirty plant in Chicago closed down following years of activism, area residents found that the city planned to redevelop the building into a transportation center–posing additional air quality risks. In contrast, an organization in West Virginia is working to train laid off coal-workers in construction, agriculture and solar energy jobs. As the shift to cleaner energy sources continues, the Union of Concerned Scientists call on lawmakers. They write,

“As more coal plants close, the importance of investing in these and other impacted communities will only grow. Policy makers should prioritize economic development and job transition assistance, alongside other investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency.”

On The Radio – Iowa City Climate Action and Adaptation Plan underway


Climate Action and Adaptation Timeline _0
This timeline depicts the steering committee’s timeline for a citywide climate action plan. (City of Iowa City)

Jenna Ladd | December 4, 2017

This segment discusses what Iowa City’s citizens are doing to mitigate and adapt to a changing climate. 

Transcript: There was standing room only at the Iowa City Climate Action and Adaption community meeting last month.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The community meeting was organized by Iowa City’s Climate Action Steering Committee, which was formed in June 2017 following President Trump’s announcement that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. Since then, city council and the steering committee have committed Iowa City to the same goals outlined by the Paris Climate Accord: community-wide greenhouse gas reduction goals of 26-28 percent by the year 2025 and 80 percent by 2050, where 2005 emissions levels serve as a baseline.

Attendees were invited to vote for climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies for Iowa City in five categories, including energy, waste, transportation, adaptation, and other. The steering committee plans to send a city-wide survey by mail in December to residents that are unable to attend the initiative’s community meetings.

After a final community input meeting on April 26th, the steering committee will present their completed Climate Action and Adaptation Plan to city council in May 2018.

For more information, visit iowa-environmental-focus-dot-org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.

Wind energy continues to be a competitive and growing industry


P7241025
Wind turbines are an increasingly common site along rural Iowa roads. (Samir Luther/flickr)

Jenna Ladd | September 12, 2017

The recently released 2016 Wind Technologies Market Report found wind energy to be a competitively priced and growing part of the U.S. energy picture.

According to the annual U.S. Department of Energy report, wind energy is expected to continue being a cheaper option for consumers than other energy sources. Without figuring in federal tax credits and state-run programs, wind energy costs an average of 5 cents per kilowatt hour whereas a highly efficient natural gas power plant charges consumers an average of 5.4 cents per kilowatt hour.

The authors also found that wind turbines erected in 2016 are taller and more powerful than in years past, allowing them to generate more energy. In the last five years alone, the generating capacity of individual wind turbines has increased by 11 percent.

About 8,203 megawatts of new wind energy was added to the U.S. energy portfolio in 2016, which made up 27 percent of energy infrastructure additions last year. Twelve states now produce more than 10 percent of their energy with wind while Iowa and South Dakota remain the only states that generate upwards of 30 percent of their energy with turbines. Texas, Oklahoma and Iowa have the highest wind-capacity nationwide.

The entire U.S. Department of Energy Wind Technologies Report can be read here.